Our adult group sends out prayer requests through email a few times a week. As I am sure is the case with many such groups, these requests primarily revolve around physical and financial issues- someone is sick or injured, or someone is in need of a job. Pretty standard stuff. With this mindset of community prayer, as I was reading through the book of Colossians, I was struck right off by what Paul prayed for. Early on in Chapter 1 vs 9 he declares his prayer for the recipients of his letter-
“we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,”
That they would be filled with the knowledge of His will, through all spiritual wisdom and understanding
In order that they might live a life worthy of the Lord.
It is interesting what he did not pray for. He did not pray for a change in their circumstances or improvement in their earthly condition! I wonder if that is why he prayed they would “get” God's will. Makes sense to me, as recognizing and understanding that my current crummy state is in fact God's will for my life is definitely going to require a wisdom I do not currently have!
Wonder also, if Paul was hinting that God's will for us is something that is different than what we would think or expect. Paul seemed to have a much better understanding of the long term will of God, His eternal plans and design, and a greater ability to live his life with that in mind. In fact, it seems that Paul's ability to endure all of the ridiculous abuses and persecutions he faced came about as a direct result of his ability to place things in the correct eternal context.
This is suggested by the second part of Paul's prayer, his reason for praying for understanding of God's will, “that they might live worthy lives”. Worthy means “appropriate”. He wanted the Colossians to live like the children of God that they were.
In the office I had a conversation with a Christian who is an alcoholic. The patient had been trying to serve God, but continued to battle a drinking problem, one day teaching a youth Bible study, the next day downing a whole bottle of wine after dinner. As I tried to encourage the patient, I shared my favorite line from the Lion King- the scene where the “ghost” of Simba's father says to him, “Remember who you are.”
I shared, “Remember who you are, you are a child of Almighty God, chosen by Him from all eternity to be his child. God wants you to live like it!”
As we talked, it was clear that part of the reason for the drinking was a focus on earthly struggles which distracted from a true understanding of the eternal will of God. And that the correct prayer was not simply, “Help the drinking stop”, but rather, “Give a full understanding of your Person and your eternal will, the perspective that will allow this person to live a life worthy of you, a life free from alcohol and focused on your kingdom.”
I need to pray better! How about you?